Nonprofit removes 1.2 million pounds of debris from Kentucky Lake after tornadoes

Lake Debris
Posted at 5:53 PM, Mar 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-04 21:03:34-05

MARSHALL COUNTY, Ky. — After a tornado hits a community, the recovery can be longer and slower than anyone would like. But there's added urgency in Marshall County, Kentucky, where more than one million pounds of debris ended up in Kentucky Lake.

Back in December, the largest tornado in Kentucky history tore through the Cambridge Shores community, along a cove of Kentucky Lake. Two people died in the neighborhood after the storm leveled houses, uprooted trees and upended lives.

"I found like a photograph book of somebody’s family, and it just kind of hits you like wow, these are people’s items, personal items, memories," said Callie Schaser, of Living Lands and Waters, a nonprofit that specializes in cleaning up the environment.

When so much of the debris ended up in the water, TVA partnered with Living Lands and Waters to help with the cleanup. It was expected to be a quick job.

"The pile just kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger," said Schaser.

But over the course of just two months, they've pulled out 1.2 million pounds of everything from boat hulls and dock structures to toys for children.

"We’re moving thousands of pounds on the daily and so that’s pretty crazy to comprehend," she said.

Of course, when all of the debris ends up in the water, it doesn't stay put. It can float all around the lake and often washes up on shores along Land Between the Lakes. The really big debris is handled by the nonprofit's excavator on a barge, but everything else, and we do mean everything, is snagged by people like Callie.

"Oh great, I think it’s a toilet, there we have it, straight out of a boat," said Schaser.

The debris ranged in size from breathtakingly heavy to frustratingly small. Little bits of Styrofoam lines the shore of Land Between the Lakes shore, which can poison the wildlife. So Callie often spends whole afternoons picking it up, bit by bit.

"Half a day or a day just to get this little stretch of 15 feet, 20 feet because it goes down so deep too," she said.

But in the end, Callie says it's worth it so that eventually, conditions out there really will be just right.

"It’s been hard but as long as I keep pushing forward and every day we do something, that makes a difference," said Schaser.

If you'd like to learn more about Living Lands and Waters, click here.